How To Entertain A Toddler On A Plane – Travel Tips + A Free Printable Checklist

The thought of flying with a toddler with an attention span as short as they are cute for the first time (or anytime) can be downright intimidating. Taylor had flown with us before, but not since she became mobile and A LOT more active/aware.  In preparation for our family vacation to South Carolina, I spent a lot of time tapping the brains of all my been-there-done-that mama friends, “researching” on Pinterest, and brainstorming ideas to compile the perfect carry on bag to keep my toddler entertained and happy on a cross country flight.  Guess what? Our 4.5+ hour flight with a 15-month-old went off with far less stress than I envisioned – sans iPad/electronics or spending a ton of money – so I want to share what we packed, how we packed it and tips for a successful travel day with a toddler based on this experience.

Bonus – the in-flight kit I created has served as a both a car and restaurant entertainment kit while we’ve been on vacation as well! I hope you find this post useful when packing a carry on bag to keep your toddler AND you entertained and happy during your travels. If you have an infant, check out this post to see how we packed for one of Taylor’s first flights/vacations featuring our absolute, must have packing cubes by EZPacking.

If you’re packing for an upcoming vacation, you NEED to snag some of these.

Make sure to download and print the FREE printable checklist at the end of this post (or click the photo below)!

 

How to entertain a toddler on a plane flight

Let’s start with the bag:

I snagged this mesh tote at Target for $9.99 (!!!) and think it’s a perfect carry on because A) they have it in 8 colors, B) it’s durable but mesh, so you can easily see and grab for anything you might need in-flight, C) it can be used as a beach bag upon arrival if you’re taking a beach vacay, and D) did I mention it was only $9.99!?

What’s In The Bag (and how it all fit!):

 

  1. In-Flight Entertainment Kit – I included a section below with all the details on what’s inside this cosmetics case turned toddler entertainment kit. I use this same bag (in this floral pattern) for my Baby/Toddler Restaurant Kit as well because it’s a perfect size and has tons of storage space!
  2.  A lightweight swaddle blanket to put over your toddler if/when they nap. Airplane cabins can get chilly!
  3. Tote Savvy Mini Insert – Stocked with 4 diapers, pack of wipe, disposable diaper bags/dispenser, changing pad, hand sanitizer, lip gloss, wallet, keys, etc.  I pop this in and out of pretty much all my bags so that we always have the essentials on hand and organized. Check out this post for exactly what and how I’m packing my Tote Savvy for a toddler diaper bag these days.
  4. A zippered pouch (this one from Target is only $4.99) to carry a copy of your little one’s birth certificate (most airlines require proof that your toddler is under 2 years old to qualify as a “lap infant”) and headphones for if and when your toddler naps. I stored this pouch in the front pocket of the mesh tote bag for easy access during our travels. I love my beautiful rose-gold, wireless headphones from Sudio – you can snag a pair for 15% off here using the discount code TAYLORMADEMAMA.
  5. Puffs (AKA toddler crack).  I keep these on hand pretty much at all times. We only buy the Happy Baby organic brand.
  6. Empty water bottles for mama and tot  – Fill them up once you’ve cleared security. I store the water bottles in the outer pockets on either side of the tote bag.
  7. 1-2 tried and true favorite books and 1-2 new books having to do with their interests, airplane travel or their destination; I suggest Richard Scarry’s A Day At The Airport, and Amazing Planes.
  8. Spare outfits for you and your toddler.
  9. A novel toy set like this one with a wooden fire engine theme. Check Target’s Dollar Section – I swear, they have the most amazing toys/activities for travel purposes on the super cheap! After I already had everything together for this trip I found mini felt board sets which would be PERFECT for the kit! There is a set of 3 felt story boards on Amazon right now that I’m considering ordering to our beach house for the return flight (another Amazon Prime membership perk!). This magnetic block set would also be a great option.
  10. Packing tape to tape up a box for your car seat if you’re bringing it with you. We had a short wardrobe box as that was the only box that would fit the dimension of our beloved car seat (Maxi Cosi 70 Convertible – on sale for only $199 right now on Amazon!!). We also brought a roll of bubble wrap to line it with. You can also check it in one of these nifty car seat backpack style bags – either way, the goal is to prevent damage. We ended up making a game time decision to put our car seat in our travel stroller bag and forego the box altogether!
  11. An Etch a Sketch, MagnaDoodleor LCD drawing tablet.
  12. Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad (Adventure, Playhouse, Farm or Vehicles and Habitats)

Taylor’s Top Entertainment Pick…


Number 11!!!! Although she LOVES to color, I can’t freely give Taylor crayons or other drawing instruments because, at 15 months old, she cannot be trusted not to try them out for flavor… so, introducing this off-brand etch a sketch during the flight was a total win-win.  There are more expensive versions with lap pads and sound features that would be great for car travel, but this one fit the bill for function, size and the quiet factor. Taylor played with this for nearly an hour of the flight (cumulative), so I would say the $19 price tag was well worth it.  As I was writing this post I noticed that right now it’s on sale for Amazon Prime members for only $10.65! Don’t have a Prime Membership yet? Get a FREE 30 Day Trial here ( I PROMISE it’s worth it – most things on this list are Amazon Prime eligible!). There is also a cute set of two miniature drawing pads like this if you’re packing for more than one little. One of my besties recently showed me her kids’ LCD Writing Tablet like this one which is only $29.99 on Amazon.com for Prime members and an even better option than the traditional etch a sketch.

What’s In The In-Flight Entertainment Kit (# 1):

This cosmetics case is the PERFECT in-flight entertainment kit bag.

Left side = snacks, utensils, wipes, box of organic milk, bib, etc.

The Left Side:

When all else fails, snacks (and a big variety of them!) will be your tantrum tamers on a flight. In the left side of the in-flight kit I packed a ton of snacks I knew she would love: Annie’s organic gummy bunnies, fruit roll ups and cheddar bunnies, fruit + veggie pouches, a variety or bars, 2 milk boxes, a travel set of utensils (LOVE these by OXO!), a Green Sprouts wipe-off bib with a pouch (the best, and so easy to fold up!_, and individual hand and surface sanitizing wipes by Babyganics.

 

Right side = toys, art supplies, flashcards, etc.

The Right Side:

Basically, I raided our local party supply store and the Target dollar bins to stock up on a ton of fun little toys, stickers, flashcards and other packable items that I knew Taylor would be interested in. I brought them out one by one, or let her pick, whenever she began to lose interest.  I actually had WAY more than I needed, so I’m happy we’ll still have some novel entertainment for the return flight and/or restaurant trips on vacation! I’ve heard of parents also wrapping individual toys and letting their kiddo open them up one by one to add to the time/excitement.

A Speech Pathologists I worked with recommended these Busy Baby cards to work on language development. Taylor loves looking at the cute little images and hearing me talk about what she is seeing (i.e “this baby is holding a cat and wearing a hat!”). I definitely recommend any toddler mama to pick up a pack.

What I’ll Pack Next Time:

Although our trip went smoothly, of course,  I’m already thinking about how to make our mom lives even less stressful. Here are a couple things I didn’t bring with us this time, but likely will for the next trip based on our experience:

Snack and Play Travel Tray (top rated on Amazon.com) – good for plane, car or train travel!

A portable, foldable high chair like this one that I almost bought on Prime Day this year! It could easily fit in a carry-on. Fortunately, we were visiting family who let us borrow us their daughter’s old Pack and Play and high chair for this trip, but in the future, we will want to bring those ourselves. The portable crib we have, use and love is this one by Baby Bjorn.

Now, onto my top 10 tips for traveling & flying with a toddler…

Top Tips For Traveling/Flying With a Toddler:

  1. Check the TSA and your airline websites well in advance of your flight for their rules and regulations regarding travel with children under 2 years old.
  2. You can bring your own milk or juice in a cooler like this one,  but you may have to go through a full on TSA check. One option is to wait until you get through security and buy a milk box from Starbucks (these do not require refrigeration). Some airplanes will have milk depending on the airline and time of day, but if you care for it to be organic, you’re likely out of luck. I think the best option is to bring no refrigeration needed, easily portable milk boxes with you. When we arrived at our beach house, I ordered another 12 pack of organic whole milk boxes for the rest of our travel as we will not always have easy access to a fridge/milk.

3. Put your little one (if not already potty trained) in overnight diapers for the flight initially so that they don’t need to be changed as soon as they would in a regular diaper. Leaky diapers are fun for no one. Make sure they are in comfy clothes with shoes that are easy to slip on and off; we opted for Natives and they worked like a charm – definitely our new fav toddler shoe!

4. I know it isn’t always possible with logistics, but try to plan your flight time around your toddler’s nap if possible. We booked a SUPER early flight which was painful at 4:30 in the morning but worth it to coincide with Taylor’s daily nap. We enjoyed watching the movie Lion while she snoozed.

5. I know screen time isn’t for everyone, and to each their own, but if you allow it this suggestion is for you. Download shows from Netflix, Xfinity, etc.  and age appropriate apps onto your iPad or laptop. This will, hopefully, occupy your little one and buy you and your fellow passengers some quiet time. We had technical difficulties and weren’t able to utilize this option on this flight. Luckily, Taylor slept for nearly 2 hours of the flight but if she hadn’t we really would have missed out on having this entertainment option.

6. Bring empty water bottles in your carry on and fill them up at the airport once you’ve cleared security.

7. Invest in a  travel/umbrella stroller and umbrella stroller bag. Previously, we traveled with our  Baby Jogger City Select, but it was just too big and cumbersome with all the other luggage we needed to bring with us. This J by Jeep umbrella stroller is easy to fold open and closed and really compact. It also has a UV. You can check the stroller at the gate right before you board, but make sure to ask the desk attendant at your gate for a tag asap.

8. Walk the aisles if you sense that the native/s are getting restless and it is permitted by the captain. Generally, other passengers are going to want to see that cute little toddler’s happy face when they get to get up and move around the cabin. The walk will give them a chance to check out this new environment and distract them from being confined to a seat. If anyone has a problem with it (or your toddler crying for that matter) then that is their own issue – but truth be told, #momshaming can be real on flights!

9. Arrive to check in for your flight early, call ahead, or both to ask for an extra seat if possible. Generally, airlines will go ahead and reserve a seat when a “lap infant” is flagged on the manifest and keep it if the flight is not full. The extra seat makes diaper changes, and the whole flying experience, a lot easier! By the way, this article by USA today does a great job of breaking down how to deal with how to change a diaper during a  flight!

10. My last, but number one piece of advice would be to prepare and pack as well as you can beforehand, but then try your best to relax and go with the flow because, as we all know, toddlers certainly cannot be predicted!

I truly hope there is at least one piece you can use to make your #momlife less stressful when planning and packing for your next family vacation!

Now, click here or just click on the picture below to access, download and print a copy of the packing checklist:

Be sure to check out the other posts in my Packed to Perfection Series – I’ll be including free downloadable packing lists for each! Print, laminate (this laminating machine is $19.97 on Amazon.com – woo hoo!), stick the list in your bag to reference, and stop worrying about forgetting something every time you head out the door!

What other posts would you love to see in this series?


Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in:

What To Pack For A Pool Day With A Toddler – Free Printable Checklist

This post is the first in my new, official Packed to Perfection series. Be sure to check back for other posts in the Packed to Perfection Series as they are posted – I’ll be including free downloadable packing lists for each! Print, laminate (this laminating machine is $19.97 on Amazon.com – woo hoo!), stick the list in your bag, and never worry about forgetting something again! You can see other examples of ways to organize and pack for a baby or toddler in these existing posts: Diaper Bag for Baby, Packing Cubes, Working Mom’s Pumping Bag, Infant Daycare Bag, Baby/Toddler Car Kit, and Restaurant Kit for Babies/Toddlers.

Make sure to download and print the FREE printable Toddler Pool Bag checklist at the end of this post!

 

Now, let’s dive into (pun intended) what to pack for a day at the pool with a toddler…

It used to be as easy as grabbing a towel, sunnies and a  suit, sunblock, an issue of InStyle, water bottle, flip flops, then off to the pool for the day. Now that you have a baby or toddler in tow, there is a whole new element to planning and packing for a successful, fun, safe day at the pool. 

I want to show you what and how I pack for a Mommy and Me Pool Day with my toddler. If you’re a first-time mom in the same boat as I was OR a been-there-done-that pro mama, I hope this post will give you some good ideas for things to pack (and what to pack them in!) for a great day at the pool with your toddler.

Swimsuit with built in swim diaper by i play.

Now that we have access to a pool right down the road in our new community, pool days are a part of our weekly routine. Taylor lovingly refers to this special place as the “poooo,” which I find pretty darn funny, but I digress…

Before we moved, I had never taken Taylor to a pool and I wasn’t quite sure what to pack to bring with us that first day. Flash forward a couple weeks and I feel like we have rounded up everything we need with the caveat that, at some point, we’ll probably start bringing some pool toys. Right now, at 15 months old, Taylor is happy to just people watch from her float or splash/walk around in the baby pool. The first few times at the pool for her were about introducing her and helping her become accustomed to the water and new environment.

What to pack for a day at the pool with a toddler:

Tote Bag – obviously, this is a must! The bag shown in the photo above is one I got at our local grocery market because I loved the design, fun color scheme and the size worked perfectly. Here are a few similar and the black mesh tote I am using for a carry on/beach bag for our upcoming vacation (it comes in several colors and is under $10!):

 

1.Babyganics sunscreen stick SPF 50 (for the face bc my fingers on her face is, apparently, torture) and sunscreen in a gallon Ziplock bag – I usually put my own sunscreen on at home and if I need to reapply, I will just use Taylor’s.

2. Skip Hop wet/dry bag with the following inside the dry pouch: the Wet Brush and a change of clothes for a toddler. When we are ready to leave, we rinse off and then I change her into a diaper, put the pool cover up back on her and throw the wet suit into this bag.  I can’t tell you how many things I use these bags for or how many we own!

3. Sunglasses for mama and toddler 

4. Quart size Ziplock bags for electronics

5. Skip Hop cooler for water bottles (I also used this in my Pumping Bag) – Camel Back bottles: mom version, toddler version. If you’re looking to pack snacks that need to be refrigerated I HIGHLY recommend this Freezable Tote by PackIt; you stick it in the freezer and, once frozen, it stays cold for up to 10 hours – no ice packs needed!

6. Floaties – the ones linked are super easy to blow up, well rated, Amazon Prime eligible (as are most items linked in this post) and under $10! If you aren’t yet an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial HERE.

7. Swim Suit Cover Up for mama – I have two pool cover ups I’m LOVING right now. The first is this simple, classy one.The second (shown in the photo above) is by Michael Stars. I got that one as part of the summer Fab Fit Fun box. I’m kind of obsessed with these boxes. Most of the individual items in the box (like the cover up) are worth more than the cost of the ENTIRE box. Use the code TAYLORMADE to save $10, and get your box for only $39.99!

8. Baby or toddler kids sun hat with chin strap (50+ UPF cotton) – I also bring my own hat, similar to this floppy chambray one from Nordstrom.

9. Towels  – I bring one for myself and one for Taylor, but you could probably get by with just one and save bag space.

Tote Savvy Insert = Mom Must Have!

10. ToteSavvy Mini Insert – I use this ToteSavvy insert interchangeably in all my bags these days be it a purse, diaper bag, carry on for a flight or pool day bag;  I love it because I always know where to look for the essentials. To me, this insert is an absolute mom must-have! These days I carry the following inside it’s pouches: Bandaids, mini Evian facial spray (this keeps both toddler and mama cool on a hot day!), a couple small toys, Babyganics Alcohol-Free individually packed hand,face and mouth sanitizing wipes, 2 diapers, pack of wipes, several snacks, keys, wallet and one of the most popular items purchased through Amazon via links on my site – the Munchkin Arm & Hammer diaper bag dispenser and bags:

On Toddler:

  • Swimsuit – I bought a couple of these suits with built in swim diapers by I play on Amazon Prime Day 2017, and we’re loving them so far.
  • Swim diaper to wear underneath a suit if it doesn’t have a built-in. We have been using these disposable swim pants by Babyganics, but there are also tons of non-disposable versions as well.
  • Diaper for over the swim suit in the car ride to the pool because swim diapers tend to leak (or maybe I’m using them wrong?).  When we get to the pool we just take off this extra safety precaution.
  • Swimsuit cover up
  • Sandals – these clear Mary Jane jellies are a toddler girl must, plus they have great grip on the bottom. Old Navy has a huge variety of strap-back flip flops for toddler girls and boys.

Additional Items:

  • Floating toys – I’m definitely getting this cute  Shark Fish Hunt Game by Melissa & Doug.
  • Float – Tented Float by Intex 
  • Cooler or freezable picnic tote for water bottles, milk and snacks that need refrigerating. For me, this is just too much to carry – I can only manage a baby, tote bag and float when it’s just T and I.
  • Pop Up Sunshade/Tent – optional depending on if there is shade at your pool.

Now you tell me, what are your pool day bag must haves? I’m on the lookout for some water shoes like these from Carter’s for Taylor, but are there some you like better?

Click here or just click on the picture below to access, download and print a copy of the checklist:

P.S.  If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the American Academy of Pediatrics pool and sun safety recommendations including:

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that provide 97% -100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays), and clothing with a tight weave.
  • On both sunny and cloudy days use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and after swimming or sweating.

 

Top Tips For Successfully Pumping At Work

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Tomorrow I head back to work 4 days a week after a wonderful two weeks off with my family, which means it’s back to “pump life”! I was thinking about what I’ve learned thus far that has made it possible to continue my nursing relationship with my daughter (8.5 months) and wanted to shared my best advice in case you are or will also become a pumping mama. It’s definitely not easy to continue breastfeeding once you return to work after Maternity Leave, but it’s so worth it! I can offer the following tips, advice and hacks for making the process a little easier and hopefully more successful for you.  It can definitely be done with a little strategizing and organization – the following tips have been learned over 5+ months of successful pumping on the job. I hope you find them helpful!

1.Know Your Rights

Ask about a place a work with a locked door, not a bathroom, that can be your designated pumping area. It’s actually one of your legal rights as a breastfeeding mother. I’m very fortunate that my employer actually gave me an entirely new office with a locked door so that I could have the privacy I needed. I find I’m actually more productive during the time I pump as; once I set up and turn up the dial on my pump, I hammer away at checking and responding to emails. I save my emails for those times so that I have something specific and productive to tackle.

This bad boy fits right into my pumping bag.
My stealth pumping bag by Sole Society.

2. Have a system for cleaning and readying pump and bottle parts at home

I come home, put milk away (store any extra in the freezer if you produce more than baby eats), fill up a large pot with Breastmilk Removal Soap (seriously, this stuff is SO convenient – no scrubbing required) and super hot water. My mom (who watches Taylor while I’m at work) puts the bottle parts she uses in there as well throughout the day. Dump in all of the bottle and pump parts and soak for 5-10 minutes while you’re doing something else. What I usually do during this time is to ready the two spare bottles, 4 lids and my extra set of pump parts and place them in my pumping bag for the following day – that way all I have to do the next morning is pop in the freezer packs and walk out the door. After 5-10 minutes rinse all the parts with warm water and put on the rack to dry (I LOVE this one by Boon). To read more on my exact workday routine for nursing and pumping read this post.

3. Schedule Your Pump Sessions Like Appointments

Block off your pumping sessions on your calendar for the entire duration of the time you hope to breastfeed. For me this means I have blocked off 1-2 “BUSY” sessions per day through Taylor’s 1st birthday which is less than 4 months away at this point. This way neither my boss, colleagues or I schedule me for something during a time I need to pump. Schedule the pumping sessions for approximately when your baby is eating at home.

A sample of my schedule in Google Calendar; “busy'” in purple.

4. Utilize a Refrigerator or Cooler

One option to keep your pump parts sanitary between sessions would be to have a mini fridge in your office, if you’re there all day. If not, you could store your parts in a ziplock bag or bottle cooler and throw them in the community fridge. I don’t feel quite comfortable doing the latter and am constantly on the go on workdays, so I use this Skip Hop bottle cooler, stored in my pumping bag, to keep the pump parts sanitary in between sessions. I wipe them first with these breastmilk removal wipes to add an extra measure of sanitation.

The bottle cooler I use.

5. DWP – Driving While Pumping

Sometimes, to make logistics work, I have to pump in the car whilst driving from one meeting to the next. Not ideal, but a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do! I carry a baggy of spare batteries in my car as well as an additional set of pumping parts in my Emergency Baby Car Kit (which is also my most popular post!) which is always in my car. It’s also helpful to have a hand pump in your car in case you a) do not have your pumping bag with you or b) you run out of battery power unexpectedly.

My emergency baby car kit. 

6. Don’t Freak Out

If you can’t pump twice during the day occasionally don’t freak out (like I did). Your body will likely still produce about the same amount of milk when you pump later in the day, it may just be a little more uncomfortable for you (make sure you have the BRA PADS in!). If you’re short for the day, and you don’t want to yet dip into your freezer stash (read all about how I built mine up during maternity leave in this post), you can pump after the babe goes to sleep at night and hopefully get an extra .5-2 ounces to add to you bottle for the next day. I’ve done that several times for peace of mind.

There you have my top 6 tips for making the pump life work as a working mom. I hope to breastfeed Taylor until her first birthday and will be relying on my tips to get us there, but I would LOVE to hear yours. Please leave me a comment with any additional advice, tips and tricks you have!

P.S. The tote I use for my pumping bag is this one by Sole Society, but here are several others that would be super cute:

P.P.S. If you’re still nursing, make sure to check out all my posts on breastfeeding & pumping.

A Simple Way To Create A Christmas Card Memory Book

Want to preserve the magic of Christmas all year round?

I know I do, especially this year with it being Taylor’s first!

One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season (up there with my xmas morning Monkey Bread) has always been receiving Christmas cards in the mail. Beginning around the end of November, I anticipate the mail each day hoping to receive a card with the beautiful, smiling faces of another friend or family. As a child, my mom always displayed each card our family received on our refrigerator, and I can remember admiring them every day and missing them when they were inevitably taken down. I honestly don’t have any ingenious way to display the cards we receive and should really step my game up at at some point (I just use red twine similar to this and mini wooden clothespins) but I wanted to share the simple way I save the cards and keep them accessible (but not up on the wall) all year long.

The past few years I have been preserving our Christmas cards after the holiday season is over simply by hole punching them with a single hole punch and binding them with a single binder ring. I keep the cards for the previous year in a drawer that I can easily access throughout the new year whenever I want to see our loved ones; it is a good reminder to continue to pray for the health and well being of each family, not just during the Christmas season. Can you imagine how much more connected you would feel to your friends and family throughout the new year if you started your day with a cup of copy, sending prayers and/or positive thoughts for them out into the world? This is a goal I have for the new year – less focus on me and my needs, more on those of my friends and family.

This year I brought out the 2015 memory book and let Taylor flip through photos of my favorite people. Our family card last year (2015) featured a picture of AJ and I on our Honeymoon and a 20 week ultrasound of our baby girl. One of the most special photos from the hundreds I took at our various celebrations this Christmas season is Taylor looking at that card from a year ago. She was randomly flipping through and looking at the pictures, but paused and touched our faces in recognition when she got to our card. Sometimes I still can’t believe that our precious baby girl is now here with us, and that we get to celebrate all our Christmases from now on with her (pinch me!). I anticipate that as she grows older, she will truly love flipping through the cards throughout the year and identifying the faces and names of friends and family who she loves but doesn’t get to see all the time.

Here are the super simple and inexpensive supplies you’ll need to put together your own Holiday Card Memory Book for 2016:

1.) A set of loose leaf binder rings. Stack your cards and hole punch in the top left corner with the second supply,

2.) A single hole punch.

3.) Put your own Holiday Card on top as the cover or use the one I created for our memory book this year:

If you would like to use my cover, leave your name and email address below and I will send it directly to your inbox. You’ll also receive Taylor-made Mama post updates and be automatically entered to win my bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!

What do you do with all of your holiday cards once the new year begins? Leave me a comment and let me know!

P.S. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE. Subscribers are automatically entered to win my bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!